Latest News and Updates

There’s Nitrogen in Them Thar Hills!

If you haven’t noticed, the price of fertilizer over the past several months has more than doubled. And if there ever were a time for doing an extensive job of soil sampling, it is now.

What’s more is that if your soil test results are anything like ours, you might just have a very pleasant surprise waiting for you.

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Jerry GThere’s Nitrogen in Them Thar Hills!

7$ Wheat?

This time last year who would have ever thought that we were sitting on and hatching a major bull market in the grains. Well, it’s here now and the only question for wheat is how high it’ll go.

There are a lot of factors that explain how we got here like being pulled along by very strong corn and soybean markets. The declining wheat acreage has also helped a bunch. For instance, the 2020 Kansas wheat acreage was the smallest in over 100 years. And the carryover is shrinking.

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marit347$ Wheat?

Three finalists selected for 2020 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®

By the Hutchinson News

KANSAS—Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

In Kansas the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas.

This year’s three finalists are:

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marit34Three finalists selected for 2020 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®

Alibates flint arrowhead stored in Kansas State Historical Society collection

arrowhead ehmke seed

Arrow Point from the Ehmke Site, 14LA311

This arrow point was recovered from a camp and kill site in Lane County during excavation by Kansas Historical Society Archeologists. The site seems to have had multiple occupations from the Paleoindian period through the Late Ceramic period. The feature this arrow point was recovered in was believed to be associated with an Upper Republican occupation. The side-notched point is possibly made of Alibates flint, a silicified or agatized dolomite from the Canadian River valley in the Texas panhandle.

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marit34Alibates flint arrowhead stored in Kansas State Historical Society collection

Where Have All The Pheasants Gone?

By Vance Ehmke

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago when opening day of pheasant hunting season was a pretty big deal. But my, oh my, how times have changed.

Back then every motel room in the county had been booked up for a year in advance. There was not a box of shotgun shells left on a store shelf anywhere. You had to wait 10 to 15 minutes to get gas. And it was really exciting—it was almost like Christmas. The American Legion was packed with people you had never seen before –and every other one had a shell and game vest on along with an orange cap. They were all dressed in brown. And the main topic of the evening was where you had the best luck finding birds. Or how quick did you limit out?
But the main question today is, “Did you see any birds at all?”

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marit34Where Have All The Pheasants Gone?

The Last Wild Horse Herd

By Vance Ehmke
Wheat & More…..or Less

The Old West was officially closed in 1890.  But it wasn’t until over 50 years later that the last of the wild horses disappeared from Lane County, KS.

Longtime resident Eldon Wancura, who now lives in Dighton, explains that he grew up on a farm and ranch that straddled the Lane-Finney line west of Highway 23. “When I was 3 or 4 years old, there was a wild horse herd in this area which at that time was still largely open range. There were few, if any roads, and only a very few trails and they were not maintained.”

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marit34The Last Wild Horse Herd

KSU Research and Extension: Small grain forage options

Small grain forage options for this fall

Small grain forages can be a profitable option for producers. They can be planted in the fall and either terminated or grazed out in the early spring, allowing time to plant a summer row crop if soil moisture is adequate.

There are five common small grain options for forage: spring oats, winter wheat, winter barley, winter cereal rye, and winter triticale. Each option has strengths and weaknesses.

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marit34KSU Research and Extension: Small grain forage options

The Bones of Lane County

By Vance Ehmke

My great grandparents homesteaded here in western Kansas back in 1885. I always thought it was a pretty big deal to be a fourth-generation farmer — until the bones of Lane County told me otherwise.

Here on our farm we have a state historical site, 14 LA 311, to be exact. It’s one of the tallest points around, surrounded by 6 to 15 percent slopes. But what makes it a turbocharged Native American campsite is that wrapping around it are a number of playa lakes including a 125-acre lagoon.

The prehistorical Native Americans figured it out pretty quick: As long as there is water in those ponds, we no longer have to hunt. Everything will come to us — including mammoths, camels, prehistoric horses, the modern bison, as well as its gigantic predecessor the longhorn bison, along with deer, elk, turtles and waterfowl you can’t believe.

We’ve found bones from all those species, as well as evidence from 10 to 15 different Native American cultures spread out over thousands of years. We’ve been here four going on five generations, but we weren’t the first by a long shot. The archeologists tell me there were 400 to 500 generations here before us. I’ve got a black-flint Goshen spear, or dart point, in our collection that could be as much as 11,000 years old. I don’t know where that Native American was born, and I don’t know where he died. But for at least part of his life, he called Lane County home.

In that general area, our family and archeology teams have found a good deal of artifacts over the years — for instance, Native American artifacts stretching from Apache all the way back to the ancient tribes of Clovis and Hell Gap. The Clovis hunted mammoths in Lane County at the end of the last Ice Age, but the Hell Gap did not since mammoths had become extinct by the time they arrived. Louise and I found a mammoth tooth on the hill that later was identified as a Columbian mammoth, the largest of the mammoths living 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. At shoulder height, it stood 12 to 15 feet tall and weighed 10,000 to 20,000 pounds. That’s a lot of meat!

Additionally, we’ve found many other fascinating prehistoric markers like huge bison bones, teeth and foot bones from the prehistoric horse, turtle shells and some occasional ivory. I love the clink of ivory shards! We’ve also found a fair amount of burned bone as well as tiny little snail shells. The archeologists who visit the site tell me they are a lot more excited about early horse artifacts than mammoths because every year somewhere in Kansas someone finds a mammoth. Horses are just rare.

By the way, species like the horse and camel originated in the central and southern High Plains, later becoming extinct here but only after escaping likely out the Bering Strait. Poetically, the Spanish brought the horse back to its birth place 400 to 500 years ago. When it became extinct, it was about the size of a small Quarter Horse.

You can find evidence of more recent Native American cultures like Apache at ground level. Same with Comanches, who drove out the Apaches. After the Comanches crossed the Arkansas River heading south for the last time, the last of the Plains tribes moved in: Sioux, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapahoe, but they were now using metal points that have mostly rusted away.

But if you’re looking for the really old cultures and the really old bones, you’ve got to dig for them. That’s because about 7,000 years ago our climate changed to a 2,500-year period of severe and long-lasting droughts accompanied by incredible dust storms that brought in our present topsoil on suffocating winds out of the northwest. When they say wind-blown loess, they are not kidding! Anybody who’s ever dug a pit for a grain bin or a trench silo can easily spot the 2- to 3-foot thick layer of dark soil on top of the yellow paleo soil.

When digging a basement for an addition to our house some years back, I spotted a mammoth tooth lying on top of the yellow soil — right where it was supposed to be. It’s always fun walking new terraces or waterways looking for prehistoric bones. Layton found a 10,000-year-old Hell Gap spear point made out of Smoky Hill jasper on such a walk. And let me tell you what, finding artifacts like that is every bit as thrilling as finding a $100 bill blowing down the street!

This past spring while digging some 15-foot deep pits for grain bins, I found what appeared to be some kind of vertebrae, which the Sternberg Museum in Hays initially identified as from a 10-million-year-old rhinoceros or early ancestor of the camel or giraffe. Others at the Sternberg instead say it may be another 10,000-year-old mammoth.

Some years back a neighboring farmer got the urge to use his earth-moving equipment to dig the 75 to 100 feet to the groundwater table. After hearing about his gigantic hole and dirt pile, Louise and I visited the site and instantly found an unearthed mammoth tooth lying on the ground. We took it to town, gave it to him and he said, “Oh, that’s nothing. There are bones all the way down to the bottom.”

We don’t have any T-Rexs or other dinosaurs here in Lane County because most of Kansas was under an inland salt sea during that time frame (60 to 90 million years ago). Instead, you’ll find some of the best shark teeth and mosasaurus hunting in the world in Gove County to the north. When the Rocky Mountains rose up from tectonic activity, the sea was drained and left the prairie grasslands as we know it today.

While we’ve found tons of animal bones, there is always the possibility that human bone is out there, too. According to oral history, a family of black settlers homesteaded on some of our land, but they all died from a measles infection. A witcher from central Kansas volunteered to find the graves. He located all seven family members plus three Native American graves on the historical site a half mile away. Skeptical about witching, I called a physics professor at K-State and asked what he thought about divining. I was surprised when said there might just be something to it.

So what does all this mean? Anytime you’re digging a hole, dig carefully. You never know what you’re going to find. Could be a mammoth tooth, a Native American spear head or knife point or some other link to our past. You just never know. But you’d better be looking!

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marit34The Bones of Lane County